Greencastle mosquitoes spark more West Nile virus buzz

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Even though the drought of 2012 appears to be loosening its stranglehold on Greencastle and Putnam County, the threat of West Nile virus still appears on the increase locally.

Two more pools of mosquitoes in the Greencastle area have tested positive for the West Nile virus, Darrell Brackney, environmental health specialist for the Putnam County Health Department, reported Wednesday.

"There's not a lot of water, but what there is," Brackney said, "is stagnant."

And that makes for the perfect environment for mosquitoes and West Nile virus to thrive.

Brackney told the Banner Graphic that mosquito traps on the East Side of Greencastle and another one "pretty much downtown" have tested positive in recent days.

That means five separate pools have tested positive locally this summer.

"That's pretty much in every direction now," Brackney said.

The three previous pools, or collection locations that have produced virus-carrying mosquitoes, were located:

-- Near the City of Greencastle wastewater treatment plant west of town off West Columbia Street.

-- In a collection area monitored by the State Board of Health near the intersection of Veterans Highway and Bloomington Street.

-- At a site monitored at the southwest corner of the Edgelea Subdivision where the County Board of Health traps mosquitoes.

"We'll be putting out some traps in other parts of Putnam County," Brackney said, expanding the effort beyond Greencastle.

While not wanting to alarm people, Brackney said it is important to keep the issue in the forefront.

"I don't want people to panic and say they can't go outside," he said. "It's cooler now, so evening is the ideal time to go out, but that's also the ideal time for mosquitoes."

Brackney continues to urge local residents to take precautions such as using mosquito repellant, avoiding being out at dusk or later, and emptying bird baths, old tires, cleaning gutters or anything else that tends to catch water and allow it to stagnate.

"Try to eliminate any possible havens for mosquitoes," he urged.

Also, persons should dress to prevent contact with the biting pests.

"If you're going to be out at dusk or later, you should wear long sleeves and long pants," Brackney suggested.

Through Aug. 1, he said, Indiana has recorded more statewide positive tests for West Nile in 2012 than for all of last year.

While no human cases have been reported locally, the state has recorded its first West Nile-related death for 2012. It was reported Wednesday afternoon.

Seven human cases have been reported in Indiana so far in 2012. Confirmed cases have been found in Fulton, Hamilton, Jackson, Monroe, Marion and Vanderburgh counties.

"Because this virus is carried and transmitted by mosquitoes, we are all susceptible to it," State Health Commissioner Gregory Larkin, a former Greencastle physician and resident, said. "The tragic death we've recently experienced serves as a reminder of just how important it is to take steps to protect ourselves from mosquitoes, both indoors and outdoors."

Statewide, 72,000 mosquitoes in 89 counties have been tested this summer. West Nile Virus has been found in mosquitoes in 53 of those counties.

Once the virus has been detected in mosquitoes, people are at greater risk for infection, state officials said. West Nile virus is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes that have first bitten an infected bird.

Someone bitten by an infected mosquito may develop symptoms within three to 15 days after getting bitten.

Approximately 80 percent of people infected with the virus do not experience significant symptoms, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

However, about 20 percent will experience symptoms such as headache, body aches, fever, nausea, vomiting and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back. Symptoms may last from several days to several weeks.

About one in 150 people infected with the virus will develop especially severe illness that may include disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. Such symptoms may last several weeks, and some neurological effects may be permanent.

Meanwhile, the state Board of Animal Health is urging Indiana horse owners to be vigilant about making sure their animals are vaccinated against West Nile virus.

The board said three horses already have been diagnosed with the disease. That's compared with 722 equine cases reported in Indiana in 2002, the year the virus was first found in the state.

State officials said the key to keeping the number of horses infected by the virus down is the widespread use of vaccinations, as well as diligence in eliminating mosquito-breeding sites.

For more information, persons may call the Putnam County Health Department at 658-2782.

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